While British sports fans aren’t used to drafts, they are a staple of American sports and the MLS Superdraft is a key component in the Major League Soccer season.
In fact, MLS’ use of drafts is more complicated than many of its rival professional leagues. While they have streamlined this with the introduction of the MLS Superdraft in the 21st century, there’s still plenty to get to your head around.
The intricacies of each draft are different. Players qualify at different ages and through a variety of criteria, often unique to the league.
You could read entire books on the details of the MLS Superdraft, but instead of pouring hours into your research, we’ve got the key points covered below.
What is the MLS Superdraft?
Just like its peers in NBA, NFL, MLB and the NHL, the MLS Superdraft is an opportunity for Major League Soccer franchises to draft the best college talent.
Until 2000, there were separate drafts for players graduating from college and those that had already graduated.
These were combined at the turn of the century to create the MLS Superdraft. The MLS College Draft and MLS Supplemental Draft were no longer.
The system has been criticised from some corners over the last few years. MLS franchises have begun to develop their own academy structures, recruiting young talent from other countries.
The relevance of the MLS Superdraft has declined, and there have been numerous calls for an overhaul.
When was the first MLS Superdraft?
The first MLS Superdraft took place in 2000. Four MLS College Drafts had taken place in the late-1990s, all hosted in Fort Lauderdale in Florida.
Kansas City, Colorado, Miami and D.C. United owned the first overall picks in those College Drafts with the franchise from the capital making the first selection in the 1999 draft, which proved to be the final event of that format.
The MLS Superdraft has taken place in every year since then with different cities taking their turn to host.
Like with so much else, this pattern was broken up for 2020 and 2021 with the draft being conducted across a teleconference.
Previous first overall picks
Going first overall in the MLS Superdraft is an honour. Higher draft choices receive larger salaries in their first few seasons in the league and are often more marketable.
Players are selected straight out of the American college sports system, though can occasionally be taken directly from clubs outside of north America.
Despite talks to introduce players from Canadian colleges into the Superdraft, that has never come to fruition.
As with any draft system, there have been hits and misses with first overall picks throughout the history of the MLS Superdraft. Here’s every first overall draft pick since the Superdraft was introduced in 2000.
- 2000 – MetroStars select Steve Shak
- 2001 – San Jose Earthquakes select Chris Carrieri
- 2002 – Dallas Burn select Chris Gbandi
- 2003 – D.C. United select Alecko Eskandarian
- 2004 – D.C. United select Freddy Adu
- 2005 – Real Salt Lake select Nikolas Besagno
- 2006 – MetroStars select Marvell Wynne
- 2007 – Toronto FC select Maurice Edu
- 2008 – Kansas City Wizards select Chance Myers
- 2009 – Seattle Sounders select Steve Zakuani
- 2010 – Philadelphia Union select Danny Mwanga
- 2011 – Vancouver Whitecaps select Omar Delgado
- 2012 – Montreal Impact select Andrew Wegner
- 2013 – New England Revolution select Andrew Farrell
- 2014 – Philadelphia Union select Andre Blake
- 2015 – Orlando City select Cyle Larin
- 2016 – Chicago Fire select Jack Harrison
- 2017 – Minnesota United select Abu Danladi
- 2018 – Los Angeles FC select Joao Moutinho
- 2019 – FC Cincinnati select Frankie Amaya
- 2020 – Inter Miami select Robbie Robinson
- 2021 – Austin FC select Dani Pereira
How is the MLS Superdraft order decided?
Anyone who follows the NFL Draft will be familiar with the MLS Superdraft order. Any expansion teams take the top picks, followed by non-playoff teams in order of record from worst to best.
Teams that featured in the postseason are ordered by when they are eliminated. Ultimately ending the first round with the winners of the MLS Cup selecting last and the runners-up picking just before them.
Ties for a pick are broken by goal difference, goals scored, goals conceded and finally on the flip of a coin.
Of course, the draft order isn’t always as straight forward as it sounds. Franchises often trade draft picks, either including in a deal to help them acquire a player or to move salary.
Sometimes teams will tear down their roster to accumulate more draft selections, which can help a rebuild. This can result in one franchise having numerous first-round picks.
Trades close to the draft happen occasionally, too. Front offices may look to move up or down a few spots depending on their roster needs.
When is the 2022 MLS Superdraft?
The 2022 MLS Superdraft is scheduled for January 11th 2022. The draft has taken place in January in every year since 2002.
Expansion team Charlotte FC is in line for the first overall pick in the 2022 MLS Superdraft, picking just ahead of struggling FC Cincinnati.
With the draft shortening to three rounds, teams who received fourth-round selections in previous trades will pick in a compensatory round.
Atlanta United, Dallas and the Vancouver Whitecaps have compensation picks in the 2022 Superdraft as a result of trades with the Colorado Rapids, Minnesota United and Inter Miami respectively.
With the playoffs still in progress at the time of writing, the full draft order is yet to be confirmed.
Here are the teams picking in the top 10.
- 1st – Charlotte FC
- 2nd – FC Cincinnati
- 3rd – Toronto FC
- 4th – Houston Dynamo
- 5th – Austin FC
- 6th – FC Dallas
- 7th – Chicago Fire
- 8th – San Jose Earthquakes
- 9th – Inter Miami CF
- 10th – Los Angeles FC